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The city of Austin and a police officer are facing a lawsuit over excessive force after a homeless man claims he was not engaged in criminal activity when he was wrongfully slammed to the ground by a police officer. Justin Tyler Scott was initially charged after he allegedly attempted to take a stun gun from officer Gregory White and use it against him in February of last year. The criminal charges against Scott were later dismissed. The lawsuit counters the claims against Scott claiming the officer attacked him.
The situation unfolded in Northeast Austin as officer White responded to a call about a suspicious person described as an African-American female. White approached Scott, and began interrogating him. The lawsuit claims “without provocation” White punched, elbowed, kneed and used a stun gun on Scott before throwing him to the ground. According to White, Scott was behaving suspiciously and tensing up during questioning. As White tried to detain Scott and handcuff him, he says Scott tensed up and resisted causing an ensuing struggle. During the scuffle, both men ended up on the ground.
“But the one thing that was wrong that day was the treatment of an individual and using that type of excessive force on an individual when it wasn’t necessary,” said Scott Vasquez, Justin Scott’s attorney. White says he yelled that he would use his Taser if Scott didn’t stop resisting. The officer claims as he pointed the Taser towards Scott’s midsection he allegedly reached out and grabbed the weapon. The two continued to wrestle over the Taser, and White says he ultimately managed to pin Scott face-down to the ground with the Taser underneath his body. White held Scott until other officers came to help him and put Scott in handcuffs.
White also said APD review found his use of force was within APD policy, according to a transcript of a 2015 motions hearing in Scott’s criminal case provided by Scott’s attorney. The lawsuit says Scott was not doing anything to warrant suspicion. Scott says the use of a Taser so close to his heart resulted in injuries to his body and mental health. Along with the excessive force claims, Scott says he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned. Spokesperson for the city of Austin said the city had not yet been served with the suit. The president of the Austin Police Association was also reserving comment until he had more information about the case.
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